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However, when the page shows up in SERPs for what is likely a "common search phrase", the old description shows up. This has been repeatable for multiple searches over the last day and a half; I don't believe it is the result of multiple data centers.
Has anyone else noticed this effect? If it is a known effect, what is the cache latency for common search phrases?
The quick cache updated its copy of my page in the last few hours. On a very specific (but not so common) 3-word search phrase, the page is listed in the #4 slot and shows current information. The slow cache has a snapshot of my page from maybe a month ago. On a less specific but likely common 2-word search phrase, my page is in the #161 slot, and the description is based on the info in the slow cache. The cache links really point to two different generations of my page.
After seeing this effect for several days, I'm almost certain it is not due to a random delivery of info from different data centers. There is something very specific which causes it to use the slow cache for the common search phrase and the fast cache for the more specific phrase (and various other uncommon phrases).
If you are right then you are on to a great point. I am thinking back now to the time when Y dropped G search results. I have another site and we were working on optimizing for a keyword with over 3 million pages competing. We played with it and within a week or two of the switch we were in the top five - usually 4 or 5 - sometimes 3 if we were lucky. Then sometimes we disappeared and I attributed it to datacenters - but then we disappeared for several weeks altogether - only to reappear with two pages - one holding the #2 and another holding the #3 spot where we have been locked since then. In light of your slow/fast cache theory, maybe the fast cache picks things up that would rank well and throws them up in the SERPs - then it takes some time for it to digest into the slow, lasting cache. What do you think? How sure are you of this cache theory as it relates to the SERPs?
The sequence might work like this.
1) take the quick (fresh) cache off line
2) do lots of heavy database pre-processing on it for optimization
3) replace the previous slow cache with the newly optimized one
4) build up a new quick/fresh cache
5) rinse and repeat every few weeks
So the subsequent question would be, what to do to get the pages into the "slow" more permanent cache?
One thing changed today, though. The page's description had always begun with the contents of its meta description tag. Now the listing only contains visible content from the page itself.
They show this only when you type the domain name in the search box. It is still the old cache when you type the Company name...
That's not really applicable in my case. There is no company; I have a personal, non-commercial site. And with the updated cache, they are beginning the page's description once again with the contents of its meta description tag.
On the much more common 2-word search, the older version (25 days old) still shows in the cache, and SERP position remains in the mid-130's. I'm hoping when the cache's resynch, my page position will get better than the 60% improvement for the 3-word search.